A new lithium-ion battery recycling research and development center, launched by the Department of Energy (DoE), has been opened at Argonne National Laboratory. Aiming to reclaim and recycle critical materials, such as cobalt and lithium, from lithium-based battery technology, the ReCell Center will focus on developing cost-effective recycling processes to recover as much economic value as possible from spent lithium-ion batteries.
The DoE says the ReCell Center will help the U.S. grow a globally competitive recycling industry and reduce our reliance on foreign sources of battery materials. The R&D initiative is a collaboration between Argonne, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and several universities.
The goal of the recycling center is to develop technologies to profitably capture 90 percent of all lithium-based batteries in the U.S. and recover 90 percent of the key materials from the collected batteries. Currently, lithium-ion batteries are collected and recycled at a rate of less than five percent, ReCell claims.
The ReCell Center is leveraging national experts from academia and national laboratories to remove risks from lithium-ion recycling by developing state-of-the-art techniques that will make battery recycling cost effective. The center will reduce the risk-to-reward ratio industry faces in expanding lithium-ion recycling programs by demonstrating a scalable process based on the following direct recycling principles.
- Direct Cathode Recycling: Current lithium-ion recycling methods, such as hydrometallurgical and pyrometallurgical processes, only enable the recovery of lower-value metal salts that need to be processed back into battery materials. Direct recycling will enable recovery of higher-value cathode materials in a condition suitable for direct re-entry into lithium-ion battery production, providing a lower-cost alternative to battery manufacturers.
- Other Material Recovery: Developing low-energy and low-cost separation processes that selectively recover other battery materials, such as lithium salts, electrolyte solvents and graphite, will give manufacturers additional products to sell. In addition, waste disposal issues are reduced.
- Design for Recycling: New battery designs could enable extended battery life and improved recyclability. The center team will explore new designs for wound, prismatic and pouch cells so they can be rejuvenated. This extends cell life and reduces cost per use. Other design improvements can enable easier disassembly and material separation to decrease recycling costs.
- Modeling and Analysis: The use of modeling and analysis tools will help determine the most valuable areas of research and validate R&D.